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Helena Pachón, PhD, MPHResearch Professor


Helena Pachón is an Instructor with the Center for the Study of Human Health. She also holds a joint appointment as a Research Director with the Food Fortification Initiative and as a Research Professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. She received her BS in biology, MS and PhD in nutrition at Cornell University and her MPH at Harvard University.

At the Center, she teaches global health nutrition courses, mentors students completing research and communication of that research, and directs a study abroad program in Peru.

As a public health nutritionist, Dr. Pachón is privileged to work at the intersection of research and practice. This has been a theme throughout her career: favoring applied research that was a few steps away from being acted upon by policy makers and program decision-makers. 

She was instrumental in developing and building capacity for an infant and young child nutrition tool that has been used in many countries to improve complementary feeding programming. Currently, she contributes to the science base on grain fortification and provides advocacy and technical assistance to improve food fortification practices at the global, regional and national levels.

Current and recent research and programmatic collaborators include:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA)
  • Cochrane Response (UK)
  • ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
  • Fundación Santa Fé De Bogotá (Colombia)
  • George Washington University (USA)
  • Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Switzerland)
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (Austria)
  • Iodine Global Network (Canada)
  • Johns Hopkins University (USA)
  • Micronutrient Forum (USA)
  • National Institutes of Health (USA)
  • Nutrition International (Canada)
  • TechnoServe (USA)
  • Universidad de La Sabana (Colombia)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham (USA)
  • University of California, Davis (USA)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (USA)
  • University of Oxford (UK)
  • US Agency for International Development (USA)
  • USAID Advancing Nutrition (USA)
  • World Health Organization (Switzerland)

Infant and Young Child Nutrition

Infant and young child nutrition was the focus of the earlier part of her career. She coordinated the development of ProPAN version 1.0, a tool used globally to assess and plan infant and young child nutrition interventions. Subsequently, she participated in the update of the tool (version 2.0), trained individuals from many countries in its use, and provided technical assistance in its implementation worldwide. These are illustrative publications from her ProPAN work:

Crop Biofortification

Since obtaining her doctorate, Dr. Pachón has worked on food-based approaches to address undernutrition, and specifically micronutrient malnutrition. She worked for several years at the intersection of agriculture and nutrition with crop biofortification: naturally breeding staple crops to have higher nutrient levels.

At the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), she contributed to the evidence base on consumer acceptability, bioavailability and biological impact of biofortified crops, as well as developed methodologies to use existing data to identify locations to promote biofortified crops. At CIAT, Dr. Pachón was the founding director of the Center’s Nutrition Quality Laboratory. Illustrative examples of her biofortification work are as follows:

Food Fortification

Currently, Dr. Pachón generates and collates evidence on the public health impact of industrial fortification: adding vitamins and minerals to staple foods as they are processed for human consumption. Additionally, she contributes to the global discourse on setting fortification guidelines and identifying best practices. Illustrative publications of her fortification work are listed below:

Student Mentorship

Throughout her career, Dr. Pachón has mentored over 80 Emory students, including undergraduate and graduate students.  Undergraduate students have completed diverse activities with Dr. Pachón such as:

Courses Taught

At the Center for the Study of Human Health, Dr. Pachón has developed and taught several undergraduate courses:

  • Global Nutrition Program Design / Who Decides the World’s Diet?
  • Double Burden of Malnutrition
  • Epidemiology of Obesity
  • Maternal and Child Nutrition
  • Nutrition and Chronic Disease
  • Foundations of Global Health

Her courses help students meet their requirements for the


Dr Pachón developed the Global Health Nutrition in Peru study abroad program. Emory students spend four weeks studying the Epidemiology of Obesity side-by-side with nutrition and dietetic undergraduate students affiliated with the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC) in Peru’s capital.

Through living in Lima, interacting with UPC students, and engaging in cultural excursions, students gain a greater understanding of obesity and its social determinants.